Plain China

Texas Spiral

by Henry Birdsey · Bard College
"Popcorn", Karlen Lambert · Guilford College

I

 

(White Sands)  

 

I remember the motorcycle gang

At White Sands—

They pawed the dust

Searching for something they couldn’t yet speak of

In the data fields of

Western Texas

 

They traced a scent in their mirrors

And in the chrome of their tailpipes

—A long ride into the

Hourglass sands

From Telluride or Salt Lake City

In cold hardware and airbrushed leather

I thought eventually I’d be one of them

A member of the familiar bullet train

In a chambered heart, but they sped away like a fraying pack

Of charred sablefish

 

I was a creature of the strip

As I would continue to be

—a quiet patron to the saintly vendors

Who sold lime-tinted aviators

And tortillas in tin foil

To the real housewives of Dallas

Who sold Mexican switchblades and fish tanks

In all sizes

Who laughed in fractured Spanish,

Over the din of the national missile range

 

—that echoes over the

Satellite radio system of a luxury motorcycle

Like some imploded homeland security

They ride,

The bullet train,

The feeders of the gypsum sands

 

II

 

(Various Intonations)

 

Violet relayed a dream of a great swimmer:

 

            A swimmer, a rescuer of the Salve Regina

            A swimmer who speaks on hinges

            Who floats lightly around a picture frame

 

The same way one might watch a body explode in slow motion

Or sit opposed, as you pull everything apart.

Separation—some years ago, El Paso

 

Violet says there was somebody else in the room:

 

            When you wake, a tall man dressed in drag is sitting

            In a dark velvet chair across from you

            Telling you how beautiful you are, over and again.

 

And for comparing prices here…

Is it a dullness that drives pitchforks beneath your nerves?

Separation—before we knew about cell division.

 

Violet was running, somewhere in the heat plains

A tireless mirage in the midseason

Running by, green light through stained glass.

 

Sometimes pre-dreams are the stones of a Spanish cathedral

Sometimes the lungs skate circles until they fold.

If you stick around, the man in the velvet chair will even play the piano.

 

Hallucinations are just like airport romance novels:

 

            Violet looked for Chamberlain, the old man, in a field in Marfa

            The great swimmer, dressed in maroon drapery

            Who left bent car frames in a gallery

 

Who shows cuts, inversions, blanks, fakes

There are various intonations of the heart—it’s a resonant vacuum

This is a palace of hyper acoustics.

 

The various intonations—of automobile parts

Of stained glass, blackened lipstick, or navy velvet.

They are only frequencies.

 

 

 

 

About the Author

Henry Birdsey · Bard College

Henry Birdsey is a junior at Bard College, studying electroacoustic music and composition. He is also a guitarist and installation artist. "Texas Spiral" first appeared in Bard Papers
About the Artist

Karlen Lambert · Guilford College

"Popcorn" first appeared in Greenleaf Review.